5-Veg curry

It’s been a while since I last blogged. Since starting a new job, I’ve had to get used to the rhythms of working life. My hours and overtime have clocked up against my motivation to cook and bake anything new.

But food will prevail, as it always does. On my last day off, I baked Aine Carlin’s fudgy brownies from her book Keep it Vegan, which were a hit. Later on, dinner was an easy improvised curry, a great one for leaving ticking on the cooker while you get on with other things.

The veg used here can easily be swapped for others, although cauliflower and potato are one of my all-time favourite combinations.

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To make this curry for two, you’ll need:

  • one large onion
  • one green chilli
  • half a thumb-sized piece of ginger
  • one clove of garlic
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/4 tsp ground fenugreek
  • 1/2 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1 can chopped tomatoes
  • half a head of cauliflower
  • 5 or 6 small potatoes
  • 100g green beans
  • 100g curly kale
  • juice of half a lemon
  • salt and pepper
  • olive oil
  • naan bread (check for milk-free!) or brown rice (if you’ve not yet been able to find vegan naan).

Begin by roughly chopping the onion, and finely chopping the garlic and green chilli. Keep the seeds if desired. Scrape away the skin of the ginger with a teaspoon, before grating.

Heat a tablespoon of oil in a large heavy-bottomed pan. Fry the onions on a medium heat until they begin to brown. Add ginger, garlic, and chilli, and fry for one minute, moving around to prevent burning. Add the spices, cook for a minute, then add tomato puree and mix well.

Pour in the chopped tomatoes, and simmer for five minutes while you prepare the vegetables. Strip away the cauliflower leaves, chop in half, and break into florets. Cut the potatoes into small pieces (not too small – without the skin, they’ll turn to mush.)

Add the cauliflower and potato to the sauce with 200ml water. Put the lid on and cook for thirty minutes, until the veg begins to soften. Meanwhile, trim and halve the beans and wash the kale.

Put in the rest of the vegetables, with the juice of half a lemon, and season well. Cook for another ten minutes. When everything is tender, remove from the heat and serve with naan bread or rice. Enjoy!

 

Corn bean chilli

As busy people, we don’t all have time to cook a balanced meal every evening. In my case, I don’t want to do anything more than boil pasta when I get in from work. How to get round this? Be organised! On your days off, cook extra portions to save for later. Plan quick and low-prep meals. Putting in a bit of effort in advance will save you time and stress later.

I adopt this technique as much as I can – although when you’re cooking for yourself, it’s much easier. This chilli is an excellent bulk-batch meal, as it’s easy to make, freezes well, and tastes really good. I’ve pared it back significantly, adding sweetcorn to bulk it out. It’s delicious, and exactly the sort of meal you want to come home to.

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Corn & bean chilli, served with spinach and potatoes

To serve three, you’ll need:

  • one brown onion
  • two cloves of garlic
  • tbsp tomato puree
  • tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • one and a half tins of kidney beans
  • 250g sweetcorn, fresh or frozen
  • salt and pepper
  • one lime.

Begin by finely chopping the onion. Cook gently for ten minutes, stirring regularly. Add finely chopped garlic, and cook over a moderate heat for another minute. Add the smoked paprika, cumin, and cayenne pepper, cook for one minute, and squeeze in the tomato puree. Stir until everything is well combined.

Pour in the chopped tomatoes and simmer for ten minutes.

Set a pan of rice or quinoa to cook in a steamer (or potatoes, if you wish), with the sweetcorn overhead. Add the kidney beans to the chilli and simmer for another ten minutes. Finally, tip in the cooked sweetcorn and season generously. Squeeze in the juice of half a lime.

Serve the chilli over your chosen grain, perhaps with sliced avocado and chopped coriander. Put leftovers into plastic containers, and put in the fridge or freezer for when you need it most!

Best tomato pasta sauce

Looking for an easy and incredible pasta sauce recipe? Look no further.

I found this gem in my treasure trove of magazine recipe clippings, originally from The Times Saturday Magazine, and I thought it just had to be shared. As it’s pretty tomato-dense, it’s got a very intense flavour, although a few nuanced additions do well to enhance it. I followed the method below, making alterations to serve one less person.

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To serve four, you’ll need:

  • 1kg vine-ripened tomatoes. Yes, that’s a lot, but you get out what you put in. Make sure they are of a good quality, too – the difference between imported tomatoes and local, seasonal varieties is vast.
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 unwaxed lemon
  • Dried chilli flakes
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Half a bunch of fresh basil
  • Wholewheat spaghetti.

Begin preheating the oven to gas mark 8, or 230C. Roughly chop the tomatoes, peel and crush the garlic, and zest the lemon. Place everything in a roasting tin, with 2tbsp of the olive oil, and plenty of salt and pepper. Roast for 45 minutes – the tomatoes ought to be browned, and there will be a layer of thick juices lying at the bottom.

Transfer everything to a large bowl, add chopped basil, and use a hand blender to puree into a smooth sauce. (You can also use a food processor for this.) Add seasoning if needed, before serving with pasta. This is absolutely delicious, and a perfect sauce to have on hand in the freezer for quick dinner fixes.

 

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Red lentil, spinach, and green bean curry

I’ve mentioned previously my love for a well-flavoured daal, specifically those cooked with coconut milk, for a delicious balance of earthy spice.  A week on from my last batch cook of this godly stuff, I had the dahl cravings again, but decided to satiate them in a novel way: red lentil curry.

In another note, I come from a multicultural town where you can often smell south Asian cuisine as you wander the streets at dinner time; and the strongest of these scents I’ve finally identified, after using it in my own food. Fenugreek is potent stuff, seeming to cling to the very air the morning after you’ve cooked with it. But it adds another taste to curries, one which is hard to describe; suffice to say its powerful smell is easy to tolerate once you’ve tasted the outcome.

Now, I don’t pretend to be an expert at all in any culture of cooking. I just like to play about with different flavours and foods – and while this recipe may fall short of a more ‘authentic’ version, it did the job for me – hearty, healthy, and flavourful.

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For two generous portions, you’ll need:

  • one onion
  • two cloves of garlic
  • thumb-sized piece of ginger
  • one red chilli
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1/2 each tsp ground cumin and ground coriander
  • 1/3 tsp ground fenugreek
  • 1/4 tsp ground turmeric
  • 120g dried red lentils
  • 100g green beans
  • 100g baby spinach
  • tin of chopped tomatoes

Begin by rinsing the lentils well, and setting to cook for half an hour while you prepare the curry base.

Finely chop the onion, garlic, ginger and chilli. Fry the onion gently in oil for five – ten minutes, or until softened. Put the mustard seeds in a dry frying pan on a medium heat, and cook until you hear them begin to pop. Add garlic, ginger, and chilli to the onions and fry for another minute, adding more oil if needed. Then, tip in all the spices and cook for a minute, stirring well.

Pour in the chopped tomatoes with 50ml of water, stir, and leave to simmer fairly vigorously for around twenty-five minutes. Meanwhile, get a pan of brown rice boiling. Trim and halve the green beans before adding to the rice and cooking for eight minutes, before setting aside. Drain the lentils.

Shortly before the rice is cooked, begin adding the spinach to the curry in handfuls. Afterwards, stir through the beans and the lentils, seasoning well with salt and pepper. Serve the curry with the rice and enjoy.

Sweet courgette pasta sauce

Sometimes, things we put little thought into end up turning out well. Think spontaneous trips, impetuous decisions, and the undeliberate decision to go out for dinner. Although I am generally not at all a person to act on impulse, I can occasionally throw together a tasty meal with little planning or thought, as this recipe shows. The tomato puree, sugar and balsamic vinegar bring together a lovely sweet sauce, mimicking the variety of expensive organic tomato we can never justify buying in the supermarket.

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(Those unappetising chunks lining the bowl’s perimeter are Cauldron’s vegan sausages – in my opinion, the most superior veggie sausage on the market. They aren’t meaty, but soft and beany – so perfect for anyone who prefers a beanburger over their soy protein mockmeat.)

To serve two, you’ll need:

  • one red onion
  • two cloves of garlic
  • one small carrot
  • one large courgette
  • half a bag of kale
  • tin of chopped tomatoes
  • tomato puree
  • dried rosemary and oregano
  • dried chilli flakes
  • balsamic vinegar
  • sugar

Begin by roughly chopping the onion and leaving to cook gently for ten minutes. Finely chop the carrot and add to the pan. After these ten minutes, add sliced garlic. (To remove the skins easily, shake each clove in a jam jar before peeling.) Cook for a few minutes.

Add a tbsp of tomato puree and stir well to incorporate. Finely slice the courgette and put in the pan. Tip in the chopped tomatoes, with a glug of balsamic vinegar, two pinches each of the dried rosemary and oregano, two pinches of sugar, and a tsp of chilli flakes. Stir again, and leave to simmer for twenty-five minutes, or until the courgette is tender and the sauce well-reduced.

Meanwhile, set a pan of fusilli to cook. I also steamed a few handfuls of kale, seasoned with lemon juice, salt and pepper. Serve the pasta with the sauce, and sprinkle with nutritional yeast.

Roasted red pepper & tomato sauce

Stir-in pasta sauces are both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, they cut down cooking time by at least 70% and put a dinner on the table, stat. On the other hand, they discourage folk from making their own more delicious, fresher, and nutritious sauces. Aside from the standard chopped tomatoes, onion, garlic, and herb affair, a beautiful pasta sauce can be made from blitzing roasted vegetables together. This recipe is one I have been playing around with: it’s more time-consuming than the other options, but the final product is well worth it.

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To serve two, you’ll need:

  • two red peppers
  • twenty plum tomatoes
  • one red onion
  • two cloves of garlic
  • chill flakes
  • balsamic vinegar
  • tomato puree
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • wholewheat spaghetti.

Begin by preheating the oven to gas mark 6, and slicing the red peppers. Drizzle in oil, arrange with plenty of space on baking trays, and intersperse with the tomatoes. Roast for 30-40 minutes, or until tender – you may need to switch your trays round to ensure even cooking.

Meanwhile, chop the onion and and cook gently for ten minutes, sprinkling with salt and a pinch of sugar. Add sliced garlic and cook for another three minutes, before adding a tablespoon of tomato puree, mixing well, and leaving for another minute. Pour in a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar and simmer very gently for one minute.

Set up your food processor, and tip in the roasted vegetables, onions, and garlic, with a sprinkling of chilli flakes and seasoning. Blitz until smooth. Check seasoning, adding more sugar or balsamic if you want it sweeter.

Set the spaghetti on to cook, with spinach in a steamer for some complementary greens. Mix the pasta and sauce and warm in the pan. Serve with the spinach, and enjoy!

Chickpea and spinach curry

Although it’s June, British weather keeps us forever in thrall of its impetuous decision-making and rash promises. On days like today, when it’s rained consistently for hours on end, a hot bowl of curry provides a dose of relief from the glum skies and damp pavements. Here, chickpeas pack a double-dose of heartiness to a big pile of happy-inducing rice, and the warm flavours almost make the rain disappear. This recipe is relatively simple to make, and is fantastic for batch cooking for busy weeknight dinners.

To serve two, you’ll need:

  • One red onion
  • Three cloves of garlic
  • One red chilli
  • Thumb-sized piece of ginger
  • 3/4 tsp each ground cumin, ground coriander, turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp fenugreek
  • One tin / carton of chickpeas (soaked and cooked from scratch, or use an organic variety if you’re able to, for plumper and softer pulses)
  • One tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 200ml coconut milk
  • 150g fresh spinach, or around eight frozen lumps
  • A handful of coriander

 

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Begin by finely chopping the onion and leaving to cook gently for ten minutes on a low heat. Finely chop garlic, ginger, and chilli before adding to the pan and frying for one minute. Add the spices and fry briefly before tipping in the tomatoes. Stir everything well and simmer for fifteen minutes.

Add the coconut milk (please choose full-fat – it tastes so much better) and the rinsed chickpeas. Season, and leave to simmer for another ten to fifteen minutes.

Put on your choice of rice to cook (I will always choose the texture and nutritious benefit of brown), and if using frozen spinach, pop this into a steamer. After ten minutes or so, press down on the cooked spinach to squeeze out excess liquid. Tip the spinach into the sauce, and use your spatula or spoon and a fork to separate the clumps of spinach out.

Serve the curry over rice, garnishing with a handful of coriander. Enjoy!

Aubergine & spinach curry with turmeric roasted potatoes 

When it comes to curry, aubergine is one of my favourite ingredients. It’s got a fantastic ability to soak up flavour, and when cooked through, it’s lovely and tender. From time to time, I used to make an aubergine curry I’d seen made by an Indian lady on YouTube, which satisfied my desire for authenticity; now I just cobble together my own, requiring less effort. This recipe is easily thrown together on a weekday evening, and tastes even better on re-heating. It can be served as I ate it, with potatoes, or with rice.

 

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To serve two, you’ll need:

  • One aubergine
  • 100g spinach
  • One red onion
  • Two cloves of garlic
  • Thumb-sized piece of ginger
  • One green chilli (or less, if you’re not keen on too much spice)
  • Half a tsp each ground cumin and coriander
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil
  • A few medium-sized white potatoes per person
  • Tin of chopped tomatoes

Begin by preheating the oven to gas mark 7. Wash and chop the potatoes into medium sized chunks. Drizzle with olive oil, dust with half a tsp of turmeric and cayenne pepper, season, and mix well to incorporate. Tip onto a baking tray, and roast for 45-60 minutes, turning halfway; you want a nice golden crisp by the end of the cooking time.

Roughly chop the red onion, and cook gently for ten minutes over a low heat. Finely chop the garlic, chilli, and ginger, then add to the pan. Adding a little more oil to the pan if needed, fry for a minute before adding the ground cumin, coriander, and turmeric, before frying for another minute.

Add the aubergine, chopped into smallish chunks, and mix well to coat in the spice mixture. Pour in the chopped tomatoes and a little water before leaving to simmer for around 35 minutes, or until tender. Add more water if needed.

Meanwhile, check on the potatoes, and turn them over. When both the aubergines and the potatoes are cooked through, stir through the spinach in handfuls. Season with salt and pepper if needed.

Serve the curry over the potatoes, and enjoy!

Easy roasted veg pasta

After a bit of a break from blogging, with uni deadlines and stress finally at a period of abatement (at least, there’s three weeks until the next deadline), I’ve finally got time for a few posts. Having spent mornings and afternoons working part-time, studying, and writing essays for the past couple of months, it’s been difficult to find time and motivation for cooking creatively. Several go-to recipes from Aine Carlin’s Keep it Vegan (that black bean chilli) have kept me going, and I’ve often winged it with improvised curries, stir fries, and pasta sauces, some of which may one day make it to this blog. I’m currently a big fan of Bosh, who devise glorious recipes – from a sweet chilli tofu dish to chocolate fudge cake – filmed from a vantage point which allows the viewer to envisage themselves in cooking mode.

One of my favourite dinners keeps it simple with two of my favourite things: roasted veg and garlic. This recipe is super easy and very satisfying.

For 2 – 3 portions, you’ll need:

  • two handfuls of cherry or plum tomatoes (around 150g)
  • two medium courgettes
  • one medium aubergine
  • two peppers – red or yellow
  • five or six cloves of garlic
  • half a bunch fresh basil (optional, but recommended!)
  • chilli flakes
  • dried rosemary
  • salt and pepper
  • olive oil
  • 80 – 100g wholewheat pasta, per person

 

Begin by preheating the oven to gas mark 6. Halve the aubergine lengthwise, then each half in two, before cutting into chunks. Place in a large bowl. Halve and deseed the peppers, roughly slice, and add to the bowl. Drizzle the aubergines and peppers with olive oil, then season with salt, pepper, a tsp dried rosemary, and a pinch or two of chilli flakes. Mix well with your hands to coat all the vegetables, before tipping into a large baking tray. Slide into the oven.

Slice the courgettes and place in the bowl with the tomatoes. Drizzle with oil and season as before, tip onto another tray, and place in the oven underneath the other. Roast for 45 minutes – 1 hour, switching the trays halfway through and giving the veg a stir. When you switch, throw in the garlic cloves (whole!) onto the top tray. These will finish tender and fragrant.

With ten minutes to go, boil and drain your pasta. Rip the basil leaves into quarters, and stir equally through the veg. Divide between plates or place leftovers into Tupperware for a delicious lunch or dinner tomorrow, hot or cold. Serve over the pasta with nutritional yeast, for a nutty finish. Simple and very tasty!

(Perhaps avoid the garlic if you’ve got a date that evening. I’ve been told the day after a garlic-y dinner that I reek of the stuff. Charming.)

 

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Pan-fried red pepper & sprouts

The Brussels sprout, the divisive Christmas vegetable. I’ve always loved them, and I’ve never understood why some people hate them with an absolute passion. As a child, I ate Brussels every year with pancetta and chestnuts; this year, they were boiled and slathered in gravy – slightly less impressive, but tasty nonetheless. With a spare packet slowly withering in the pantry, I wanted to try something a little different, to prove that the traditional sprout isn’t only the derided counterpart to the Christmas roast potatoes: here I’ve pan-fried them with spices and red pepper.

 

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To serve two, you’ll need:

  • a small pack of Brussels sprouts
  • one red pepper
  • one clove of garlic
  • a thumb-sized piece of ginger
  • one small red chilli
  • dark soy sauce
  • sunflower oil, for frying

Begin by chopping off the small stalks and peeling away the outer leaves of each sprout. Finely chop the garlic and chilli, and grate the ginger. (I’ve just discovered how much better grated ginger is for frying. I can tell from the aroma released as it hits the hot oil; and there are no chunky bits of ginger which tend to overpower the other flavours.)

Slice the red pepper in thin strips, then into halves. Heat a good glug of oil in a large frying pan, and add the spices. Fry for no more than a minute, stirring constantly, before adding the sprouts. Mix to combine with the spices, fry for a few minutes, then add the pepper, with more oil if needed.

Fry for around fifteen minutes, moving everything around regularly; but leave the veg to stick to the pan to acquire a bit of a chargrilled tan. In the meantime, set some rice to boil – I will almost always opt for brown, as it’s the wholegrain – the white has been stripped of the bran and the germ, which contain all the fibre, vitamins, and minerals. Here’s a link to a useful article on the advantages (and disadvantages) of brown over white.

Once the sprouts are cooked – soft, but still with bite – add a tablespoon or so of dark soy sauce. I added this for lack of my usual tamari, but in all honesty, I preferred the richness of the dark here: helping everything to caramelise, it complimented the sweetness of the red pepper. Cook for another minute on a low heat before serving over the rice. I also added chickpeas to the pan to cook through, for extra protein. (As I’m at home, I’m enjoying the luxury of organic beans and pulses, and boy are they superior; softer, bigger, and chemical-free. It’ll be hard to shift back to bog-standard tins.) This is a good way to use up a surplus of sprouts, and would go just as well with wholewheat noodles.